9. Apologies

The basic form of apology is I’m sorry. However, there are several variations which make the apology more or less emphatic.

I’m sorry. - more emphatic

I’m very sorry. - more emphatic

I’m so sorry. - more emphatic

I’m ever so sorry. – less formal

I’m terribly/ awfully/ dreadfully sorry.

Sorry. - less emphatic, often casual. Only for relatively unimportant things.

When the person to whom we want to apologize does not yet know what has happened, we often use I’m (very/ so, etc) sorry but…

I am afraid can be used instead of I am sorry in this type of situation.

I’m afraid means unfortunately here and functions as an apology. I am sorry may also be used to apologize in advance for causing trouble.

Excuse me (for…) is alternative here.

However, excuse me, alone (or with please) is usually either a way of indicating politely that you want to pass, at the same time apologizing for any inconvenience you may cause, or a way of attracting the attention of a person whose name you do not know

I hope you don’t mind… - when one has done something without first asking permission

In formal apologies the verb ‘apologize’ may be used.

I apologize for…

I must/ do apologize for… - Must is not usually stressed here. I must apologize is hardly more emphatic than simply I apologize. Do, however, is stressed and makes the apology more emphatic.

I beg your pardon - is also formal. It is rarely used nowadays, except as an apology for not hearing something (and thus as a request for repetition). Even here, however, the forms given below are much more common.


Sorry – the most common form among educated people nowadays. Pronounced with a high rise. If a specific request or explanation follows, I’m sorry may be used.

Here are some possible replies to apologies:

That’s/ It’s all right.

That’s/ It’s quite all right. - more formal

That’s/ It’s OK. – informal, casual

Don’t worry. (I’ve got plenty more)

Never mind.

That/ it doesn’t matter.

In certain situations, a less reassuring reaction may be appropriate.

Oh, you are, are you? – in reply to I’m sorry.

You have, have you? – in reply to I’m sorry (but) I’ve…

Being sorry won’t help.

You should be more careful

Polite replies to apologies for causing trouble include:

No trouble at all.

That’s quite all right.

I’m glad I was able to help you.

{Back to Contents}